Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Russian Summer Tea

The Merchant's Wife, a painting by Boris Kustodiev
Most recipes are about ingredients and proportions and cooking times, but this one calls for the right atmosphere--the right atmosphere for a Russian summer tea.

I’d guess that many Russians have sentimental memories of drinking tea for hours on warm evenings on their dacha (vacation country house).

There will be sweets, fruit, fresh-picked berries from the garden, endless cups of tea, chit-chat with family and friends, the house cat or dog trailing around, all to the backdrop of the summer sun sinking into the earth well into the evening. It’s Russian pastoral.  (For a good cinematic version of this scene, see the movie Burned by the Sun.)

Here’s an approximate recipe for recreating a Russian summer tea, whether you’re in Russia or, as most of my readers, somewhere across the ocean.

Season:
July, July, August, early September

Weather:
Warm in the evening, but not humid. Breezy but not windy.

Location:
Your cottage or country house. Oh, you don’t have one? A suburban backyard patio or deck, or even an urban balcony will suffice.

Company:
Ideally, your extended family, with assorted friends and visitors on hand. Dogs and cats welcome.

Tea:
If you have a samovar, a Russian hot-water brewing device, use it. If not, make a big pot of hot tea, and be ready to brew more.

Snacks:
Two or three different desserts—simple fruit cakes are always good. Chocolate candies. Two varieties of jam (black currant and raspberry recommended). Honey. Thinly sliced lemon. Three or four of the following: watermelon, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes.

Conversation:
This is a great occasional to talk politics, society and the arts. (And no need to brush up on the facts—the point is free-form chit-chat, banter, and humor--not accuracy.)

3 comments:

ludushka said...

this is the true meaning of "chayi gonyat' " I miss it. Thank you for such a lovely, nostalgic post.

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Thanks, ludushka. It's been a while since I heard the phrase "chayi gonyat"--I should have added it to my post.

Lada said...

I live in America now. And I miss a very good tea here. We have found some well-known brends, but my future husband never seems understanding me about tea. I tried to explain that it's not a habbit but a very good tradition. Thank you for such a nice article.

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